When I entered high school the first thing several of my teachers said when they found out my last name, was, “Oh my, you must be Mick Bollig’s brother. You are the spitting image of him.” In case you haven’t heard the phrase spitting image, it means exact double. God made me to have bodily features that were similar to my older brother.
On the last day of creation, God said, “Let us make man in our image (Genesis 1:26).” When He was done, He stepped back and looked at His creative work and said, “Now that is good. Very good (author’s embellishment of Genesis 1:31).”
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? It doesn’t mean we are the spitting image of God. It does not mean that we share His DNA or that God has a body confined by space and time. The Bible says “God is Spirit (John 4:24)” and does not exist within a body. God is omnipotent meaning He has no external limitations that a body can create. The Bible says, He can “do all things” and that nothing can restrain him (Job 42:2). We also know God is omnipresent meaning He is present in all places at all times. The Bible says, “His eyes are in every place (Proverbs 15:3).” The writer of Psalm 139 says “we can never be out of the sight of God (Psalm 139:7-12).”
Being made in the image of God means we were made to resemble the spiritual aspects of God. Mankind has a spirit like God. When God created Adam, He first formed Adam’s lifeless body out of dust. Adam’s body did not become alive until God breathed life into Adam. The life God breathed into Adam included an everlasting spirit or soul. Having a spirit is one of the things that makes humanity different that the rest of creation. And, while our spirit is not fully eternal like God’s because we had a beginning and He did not, it is clear from biblical teaching that our spirit, like His will live forever. See Psalm 22:26; 23:6; 49:7-9; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 25:46; and 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.
Our spirit gives us the ability to be like God mentally, morally and socially. He wants us to use that ability to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul and to love others as we love ourselves.
Mentally, we are able to reason and choose. This is a reflection of God’s intellect and freedom to choose. Whenever we do anything that requires thought, we have the option of considering how God would do it or do it our own way. This could include all work, inventing, painting, playing an instrument, writing, or anything else that requires thought. When we do anything that requires forethought and we think about it in the way God would think about it, we reflect the image of God to the recipients of our doing. When our reasoning causes us to make a choice that would be pleasing to God, we reflect the image of God.
Morally, we are able to choose righteousness and perfect innocence. This is a reflection of God’s holiness. In the beginning, when God saw all that He created and said it was “very good (Genesis 1:31),” He was observing our moral compass in its original state. Whenever we recoil from an evil temptation that is threatening our moral compass, praise good behavior or feel guilty and repent for doing wrong, we reflect the image of God’s morality or holiness.
Socially, we were created to desire fellowship with others. This is a reflection of the perfect love relationship between God The Father, God The Son and God The Holy Spirit. It is also a reflection of the personal two-way love relationship God wants to have with all of us. In the Garden of Eden, Adam’s primary relationship was with God. God soon created Eve because He said “it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).” Whenever we demonstrate an act of loving kindness and community toward another human being, we reflect the image of God’s love in a social relationship to them.
Unfortunately, one of the aspects of being made in the image of God is that we have the freewill to make choices that do not reflect the image of God. Adam and Eve were given a righteous nature but made a catastrophic choice to rebel against God. Because of their choice, while we bear the potential to reflect the image of God, we also bear the scars of our sinful nature that we inherited from Adam and Eve.
So, how do we live a life that glorifies God when, like the apostle Paul, our sinful nature causes us to do the things we don’t want to do and not do the things we do want to do (author’s paraphrase of Romans 7:15)?
The apostle Peter said “God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have receive all of this when we begin a relationship with Jesus, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (2 Peter 1:3-4, LASBNLT).”
Jesus’ whole earthly ministry centered around glorifying The Father. In Jesus’ final hours when he was about to give up his life for our sins, Jesus said, it was for the Father’s glory that he came to die for us (John 12:27-28). If Jesus knows what it means to glorify the Father, we should follow his teachings to learn to also glorify the Father. Jesus’ apostle John wrote, “if anyone obeys his (Jesus’) word, love for God is truly made complete in them (1 John 2:5).” John continues by saying, “Whoever claims to live in him (meaning Jesus) must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).”
Living like Jesus did does not mean choosing 12 disciples, performing miracles and physically diing for others. To live like Jesus today means to obey Jesus’ teachings, follow his complete obedience to God and to give up our life for others.
Jesus gave us a short list of commands and attitudes that, when we act in obedience to them, will reflect the image of God. And, when a follower of Jesus understands their purpose in God’s perfect plan and applies these commands and attitudes as they live out their purpose, the original blueprint of God’s image on their life will be visible to all like “a town built on a hill (that) cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14).”
God did not leave us on our own to figure out how to live a life that reflects His image. Like the scene in the Garden of Eden, when God pursued the first man and woman after they sinned (Genesis 3:9), God made the first move toward us when He sent His son Jesus to rescue us from the affects of this corrupt world. Then, God sent the Holy Spirit to live inside anyone who follows Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, He granted us His power, revealed to us His knowledge and spoke to us promises of hope for the future. He did all of this so that we might reflect His nature. He did this so that we can live “In The Image of God.”
As God’s image bearers, we must become active participants in God’s plan to redeem the fallen world. We must first receive His free gift of grace. Then, we must grow in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ and join them to draw others to Jesus and to help others grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
As we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, our values will be transformed. Our values will become more like the values of Jesus. Since our wants and actions are guided by what we value, our wants, our actions, the way we treat others and the legacy we leave when we depart from this world will be the purpose God had for us when we were created.
In my upcoming book, “In The Image of God,” that will be published in the second half of 2018, I will provide you with an understanding of the commands and attitudes Jesus gave us and help you apply them to the blueprint God has for your life. It will help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus taking you from a life of fallow to fruit through a Christ Centered Life Mission and Godly Goals lived through Jesus’ teachings on the:
1. First greatest commandment
2. Second greatest commandment
4. 10 Commandments
5. Christ Centered Disciplines
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